Archive for category Awesome

SXSW 2011: Austra

As an armchair warrior of SXSW 2011, I’ve been glued to Twitter and the blogs for clues pointing to the buzz bands of 2011.  Fortunately, one doesn’t have to be extra sharp to pick up on the clear and present hype around Austra. Last night, tweets from two of my favorite music nuts, Amrit Singh at Stereogum and Seraphina at Buzz Bands LA, confirmed that Austra, clad in tons of glitter, ruled. (Period.)

#Trust me, you want to have Austra’s “Beat and the Pulse” (FREE via Soundcloud) on your playlist this Friday night.

Check out Stereogum’s pre-SXSW predictive post on Austra.


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New and Free: Saint Motel’s “Puzzle Pieces”. Get.This.NOW(!)


I don’t have time to write about how awesome Saint Motel is, because:  i) I have to go to work and ii) I’m too excited to get this free download into your hands to worry about couching it in a whole bunch of garbage/band history/woes etc.  If you want to read a real article about Saint Motel, use the Buzz Bands L.A. link at the lower right hand corner of this page.

Trust me. GO GET PUZZLE PIECES. Then, when the douchebag in your office begins to yammer about this ‘great little cab‘ he swilled at a wine tasting event last night, simply put in your earphones and have an internal party(!)

Other office coping strategies coming soon on sPikeR(!)’s sister blog: “i-don’t-have-a-real-job-but-i-can-imagine-one.blergspot.grr”


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Watch The Strokes Debut “Under Cover of Darkness” on SNL (!)

Hey, they’re The Strokes. Did you expect them to sound like someone else?  Although some critics claim that their new tracks pattern too closely the sound created on Is This It, my grandpa would say , “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  …and The Strokes ain’t broke.

As you watch them debut “Under Cover of Darkness” from their new record, pay special attention to both the guitar dissonance at the beginning (a little naughty, mostly nice) and Casablanca’s use of the F word on national TV at the end (all naughty).  Their new album, Angles, is due out March 22.  A review on sPikeR(!) can be expected, since I’ll probably just have to cut and paste most of my review from Is This It. #lazyblogger


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Radiohead. The King of Limbs. Available Today (!)

Woooohooooo!  The big day is here……1 day early. Thanks to an alert from THE KEXP BLOG in Seattle (another reason to love the Pacific Northwest) I snagged the new Radiohead, The King of Limbs, a day early.  Listening now and, seriously, I’m feverish.

Get Radiohead, The King of Limbs here (!)

….and this is how I felt while waiting the 2 minutes it took for the WAV file to download (scroll to 1:20 for actual footage of me- sort of):

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New Release (!) Telekinesis. 12 Desperate Straight Lines.


What’s a straight line if it ain’t desperate? That’s what I always say.

Today, Merge Records (Have you heard of The Arcade Fire?) released 12 Desperate Straight Lines from one of my favorite rule-breaking bands, Telekinesis.  Listen to Jason Narducy’s (Bob Mould band)  filthy bass on “Car Crash” and tell me this doesn’t qualify.

Buy it from Merge Records. Right now.

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KCRW & sPikeR Love Tame Impala (!)

Tame Impala.

See? I told you Tame Impala is amazing. Jason Bentley thinks so too…and blogs about them on KCRW.

Read the review in the October archives of sPikeR (!)

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Harper Blynn. Genre: Awesome (!)

Harper Blynn

Members:  Pete Harper, J.Blynn, Sarab Singh, Whynot

Brooklyn, New York.

A sneak peek at the tracks from Harper Blynn’s latest self-titled EP tells me something I already knew: these guys are gonna be huge.  In fact, their debut full-length record, Loneliest Generation, produced by David Kahne (The Strokes, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor) made a splash with the music industry and gained them a myriad of fans ranging from age 10 to the Baby Boomer generation.  Why such a following?  This band knows the secret formula: everybody loves a melody.  That’s right…in the sometimes austere indie rock scene where sheer mopery  (prnc’d “mope .. er .. ee”) and self-flogging are essential ingredients, Harper Blynn bravely steps into the spotlight with fantastically crafted songs full of melodies and strong hooks that traverse the mind and brighten the outlook.  Pete and J. use a tough-love approach in their song-writing, inspiring listeners to take responsibility for their lives and relationships with lyrics like: “There’s no time to be fearful.  There is no time to be untrue, so look me in the eye and say an honest word or two…” from “Bound to Break; and from “Loneliest Generation”, the number one music video on this summer, “We are children laughing, peeking through the wall…knock it over now! Just let us stand alone and if we fall, it’s never over…”   In a world with plenty of self-pity and blame-shifting, Harper Blynn makes a clear point to remind the individual of their own power.  That’s not always the easiest concept to swallow, but it’s always the most rewarding.

Their new EP allows us to peek into the darker corners of Harper Blynn where we see a little more lyrical depth and a sharper sonic edge compared to their debut. With dramatic synth, guitar effects from fuzz to straight-up shredding, strong, sometimes playful bass lines, and some damn tight percussion (listen to the end of “Bound to Break”), their musical acuity and lyrical intelligence will attract even the most die-hard anti-popsters.  For their next LP, I’m hoping this band will illuminate even more of their dark corners to produce a poignant, eerily insightful record with an edgy grace that will become them nicely.  We shall wait.

Check out the “Loneliest Generation” music video which sailed past Justin Bieber’s hair and Katy Perry with her foam-shooting cans to the number one spot on this summer.

Harper Blynn. Loneliest Generation.

The foursome, Pete Harper, J.Blynn, Whynot and Sarab Singh, operating out of Brooklyn, have been tearing up the highways, touring with the likes of Cary Brothers and Greg Laswell, as well as opening shows for Corinne Bailey Rae among others.  After their busy week at CMJ 2010, they set sail again for a Fall tour.  Check out their schedule below and DO.NOT. miss this band if they are anywhere near you. Not only are they a jackpot of original music, but they also  pull off some of the best covers I’ve heard, ranging from Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’”, to Beyonce’s “Halo”.  Check out the YouTube video below and tell me J.Blynn doesn’t have one of the best voices in rock today. (btw – I capital HATE the sound quality on all YouTube vids, including this one, but I’m hoping this will at least entice you to see the live version.)

Download two tracks off their new, self-produced EP, Harper Blynn.

Buy Loneliest Generation on iTunes.

Harper Blynn Fall Tour (!)

Date City Venue Ticket Links
10/19 New York, NY Mercury Lounge (CMJ showcase – 9 pm) Buy tickets 
10/20 New York, NY CMJ – The Living Room (4:30 pm)
10/22 New York, NY CMJ – The Living Room (11:30 pm)
10/23 Brooklyn, NY Rock Shop – Gothamist CMJ Party (3 pm)
10/23 New York, NY CMJ – Rockwood Stage 1 (10 pm)
10/28 Cleveland, OH Cambridge Room (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
10/29 Columbus, OH The Basement (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
10/30 Toronto, Canada El Mocambo (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/1 Indianapolis, IN Radio Radio (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/3 Chicago, IL Lincoln Hall (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/4 St. Paul, MN Turf Club (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/5 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/5 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/6 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/8 Sparks, NV The Alley (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/9 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/10 San Francisco, CA The Independent (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/12 Salt Lake City, UT Avalon Theater (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/16 Ann Arbor, MI Blind Pig (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/18 Boston, MA Cafe 939 (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/20 New York, NY Highline Ballroom (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets

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New Music: Harper Blynn (!)








…found a little present in my inbox this morning:  Harper Blynn’s new self-produced, self-titled EP, which is due out in a week.  Stay tuned for a full review, tour dates and any other news I can find on this incredible band….coming this weekend (!)

Until then, follow the link to their Facebook page, where you can listen to two of the new tracks now.

Harper Blynn on Facebook (!)


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MySpace Music Only Bookmarklet Created by Paul Fenlon

Ok – I’ll admit that sometimes I do go to a band’s MySpace page to look at pictures of cute musicians, but most of the time I’m there to sample music.  Waiting for MySpace to load (and dealing with the annoying layouts) can be a pain, so a fellow genius (read – a genius who is a fella) made this bookmarklet to help.  The link is below, but in summary, here’s how it works:

1. There is a red icon in the article below (see link) with the words “MUSIC ONLY”.  Drag that icon into your bookmark tool bar.

2. Open a band’s myspace page.  For example (Actually you may want to look at the pictures of this band, so it may not be the best example.  Go ahead. I’ll wait…)

3.  Click that “MUSIC ONLY” link on your tool bar.  That’s right….just click it. You don’t have to wait for anything to load, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200. Just go to the MySpace page and as soon as you see it open, click that link in your tool bar.  Are you getting it?  Just click it.

5.  Instantly, only the band’s music player opens up, and off you go.  

Link to article and bookmarklet.

Many thanks to Paul Fenlon for developing and sharing this.  It’s great to see all the extra “ZOW (!)” on MySpace pages, but sometimes you just want to cut to the chase.


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Menomena the Phenomenon

“Menomena is a scientific musical wonder that layers its deliberate cut-and-paste genius into euphonic sculptures.” – MusicFestNW

(Photo taken from Menomena’s social networking page.  Obviously, do not try this at home.)

They are the kind of band that causes you to shut up and stare.  You stare at them with your eyes because it’s cool-scale amending to see Justin Harris put down his bass and pick up the line with a baritone saxophone… because it’s gratifying to watch Brent Knopf shrug off the indie-austerity syndrome, smiling while he sings, plays keyboards, glockenspiel and guitar and probably simultaneously writes software programs in his head while he is triggering MIDI samples from his laptop… because it’s heart-stopping to witness the genius of Danny Seim as he staggers around his drum set like a man truly on his last legs, dripping sweat, bare of foot, and literally winding up before knocking the bloody hell out of his cymbal. (After writing this, I realize that portrays him as lacking finesse, which is entirely incorrect.)

(Photos taken from Menomena’s social networking page.  Justin Harris with baritone saxophone and bass, above; Danny Seim, middle; Danny Seim’s bloody sticks, below.)

You stare at them with your ears, taking in as much of the amalgamation of sound as possible.  Unlike many bands, Menomena does not play to tracks during a live performance, which in my opinion gives them both credibility and flexibility, however it also limits the extent to which they are able to recreate their recordings. Thankfully, this slightly pared down version of their music (pared down is the absolute last thing that comes to mind during a live show) gives the listener a fighting chance at catching most of the on-stage sonic action.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you stare at Menomena with your brain.  You are rapt, wondering, mesmerized, foraging for patterns, though as soon as you find one and sink your teeth into it, it’s gone and you’re left spinning, searching for another.  The band is always two steps ahead of their crowd, even as they perform familiar pieces, recordings of which have long been memorized (“The Pelican”).  In essence, fathoming a Menomena performance is like playing a raging game of Whack-A-Mole with your senses, but entirely pleasurable, if not giddifying (I made up that word just for this band.)

Not surprisingly, the trio experiences significant opposition as a record is birthed.  After all, they are illuminating a dark corner of music, which must be carefully unearthed and whose inhabitants are as of yet uninterpreted.  To expect only sunbeams and unicorns in the midst of such an ominous task is plain silly. Though it makes for tumultuous times during production, the un-stifled opposition calls forth tracks that are paramount.  To quote Danny Seim on the production of Mines, it is “the best record that [they] could produce at this time in [their] lives”. I appreciate that.

The catalyst for their other-worldly arrangements is Knopf’s brainchild,  the DLR software program (pronounced DEELER, an acronym for Digital Looping Recorder), which is a recording and splicing tool that is uniquely used by Menomena to create compositions from various loops recorded during jam sessions.  “Dirty Cartoons” from Mines contains pristine examples of phrasing that probably wouldn’t flow in succession during a jam, but when the band chooses loops to be spliced, a super sonic scene is created.  For example, at 2:06 in “Dirty Cartoons”, a monster drum fill has the listener anticipating a scene similar to the opening of the giant doors that lead into the Land of Oz. Instead, the monster fill leads into a scene more like Yoda’s swamp in the Empire Strikes Back.  This is just speculation, but I’m pretty sure that’s a DLR moment.

(Photo taken from Menomens’a social networking page.  Brent Knopf with his Gollum hands, left; Justin Harris, right.)

At MusicFest NW 2010 in Portland, Oregon, Menomena played to a packed Crystal Ballroom with guest guitarist, Joe Haege, from Tu Fawning and 31 Knots. Playing off ofFriend and Foe [Barsuk; 2007] and Mines [Barsuk; 2010], the band’s set included “Tithe”, “The Pelican”, “Evil Bee”, “INTIL”, “Dirty Cartoons” and “Five Little Rooms”, the last two being my favorite tracks on Mines.  The anthemic chant at the end of “Dirty Cartoons” echoed through the ballroom as the crowd joined in “I’d like to….. go home…” , but we didn’t really want to, hence the encore and the begging for a double encore. After that show, I will never consciously miss another live Menomena performance (and if possible I will stand where I can clearly see Danny Seim).  If you’re lucky, you may still be able to catch them on tour in the Mid-Western and Eastern U.S. and Canada: Menomena tour dates.

Do your brain a big favor and download Mines on iTunes.  The highly sophisticated, refreshingly unique, yet familiar-enough-to-crave-after-only-one-listen record is a masterpiece and thus far #1 on my 2010 top 10 list.

Check out the 2007 Menomena session on Daytrotter (!) Another session is on the way. I’ll post it here when it is available, or you can get it at

Other links sourced for this article:

Burnside Writer’s Collective. Interview with Menomena’s Justin Harris.

Indie Music Portland presents Danny Seim’s second project: Lackthereof

MusicFestNW 2010 Menomena

MusicFestNW 2010 Menomena. Not-So-Everyday People… Interview with Brent Knopf


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